This week on home video, we’ve got the latest from a legendary director, an action film set in Paris, and an aging martial arts star’s venture into dramatic acting. On top of that, there’s also a first-time Blu-Ray of a Wong Kar-Wai film, a collection of Bob Hope movies, a comedy classic directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, a recent period thriller, and, last but not least, the complete series of a certain action-packed TV show whose big screen adaptation opens this week. Check out the full list below.
Martin Scorsese has only briefly dabbled somewhat in themes of horror and psychological terror, but this year he went full force with an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) novel, Shutter Island. Featuring a fourth collaboration between Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island focuses on U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels (DiCaprio) and his efforts to solve a missing person case on a secluded island that houses a hospital for the criminally insane. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Teddy begins to realize that things are not entirely as they appear to be, and he must separate fact from fiction. The film is bolstered by an impressive supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley, and Patricia Clarkson, but it received somewhat of a mixed response from critics, who ultimately reviewed the film at 67% on the Tomatometer. It may not be Scorsese’s most distinguished effort, but most felt that it was an admirable stab at the genre, and you can pick it up DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Last year, director Pierre Morel had a surprise hit with the Liam Neeson-powered revenge movie Taken, and before that, Morel helmed the cult French action hit District B13. So it was reasonable to expect that his latest effort, From Paris with Love, would be an equally surprising gem. From Paris had the director working again with Luc Besson, who wrote and produced the film, and actors John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The story follows Travolta and Meyers as an unlikely duo of CIA agents on the trail of a terrorist plot in Paris; Meyers plays the rookie in over his head, and Travolta the trigger happy veteran agent with a penchant for causing trouble. It’s an old formula that can be effective when properly utilized, and Morel certainly proved in the past that he was capable of handling crisp action. Unfortunately, the critics were less than charmed by From Paris, who thought Travolta was interesting to watch in his over-the-top role, but felt the film itself was too disjointed to satisfy moviegoers. For better or for worse, however, the movie is available this week on DVD and Blu-Ray.
There’s something naughty about watching Caddyshack (the movie that must have inspired Whack-a-Mole) on Blu-Ray. This raunchy slapstick about loaded men and nefarious rodents on a golf course was a low-brow send up of high-brow dimness. Sure the production values were high but the majority of the film’s core fanbase didn’t come to love the film under “ideal” viewing conditions-they were repeat viewing it on duped VHS. This wasn’t some under-the-table fascination–Caddyshack was a big picture and it hit video in the same pocket of time that HBO was keeping families at home on Saturday Nights. Caddyshack‘s legacy of re-watching was done with all the gritty pixel of extensively loved “tape.” You’ll be losing that grit with this Blu-Ray, so manage those nostalgic urges judiciously. Word is the image is far better than it ever was on SD-DVD, the greens are brighter and the Chase more Chevy. Two TV based featurette docs join this garishly bright view of the Bushwood Country Club, including one Biography channel special called “Caddyshack: The Inside Story” and another, more general-interest doc called “Caddyshack: The 19th Hole.”
He may not quite be a household name any more, but at one point, Bob Hope was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the most famous entertainers to grace an American stage. His presence was ubiquitous in show business, from vaudeville to radio, from television to film, and he even spent a significant amount of his time entertaining the US troops on several USO tours. This week, Universal puts out a collection of six of his films, including Thanks for the Memory, The Cat and the Canary, and Road to Morocco, in an affordable box set with a healthy helping of bonus features. Among them are theatrical trailers, footage of USO performances, photo galleries, and a sing-along. Though he is no longer with us, these films help to remind us just how great he was, and fans of his will want to pick this set up for their libraries.
Loosely based on Steven Millhauser’s short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” this 2006 Sundance premiere centers around the story of a magician performing in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century. After meeting a traveling magician as a teenager, Eisenheim (Edward Norton) becomes obsessed with magic and the idea of manipulating realities before audiences’ very eyes. He unexpectedly ends up falling in love with Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), a woman well above his social class, and eventually loses her because of his inability to make them both disappear when their forbidden love is threatened, compelling him to become a master illusionist beyond anything seen before. As word of his illusions spread throughout the country, Eisenheim attracts unwanted attention from Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who is committed to upholding the law and doing away with any type of magic that threatens his ordered existence, and Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), who holds a political secret and happens to be engaged to his lost love, Sophie von Teschen. And as we all know, conflicts of this kind require resolution in dramatic, perhaps even magical fashion in cinematic form. In a film that mixes mystery, romance, political power, and a boatload of magic, this Certified Fresh flick arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week for your period piece viewing pleasure.
This week, we’ll witness the rebirth of the Karate Kid franchise, with a bit of a twist — it’s actually kung fu, it takes place in China, and the wise maintenance man is played by aging Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan. Interestingly enough, Chan’s most recent Chinese import is a gritty crime thriller that takes place in Japan, features no kung fu, and casts the amiable star in a dramatic role much darker than audiences are used to seeing from him. The Shinjuku Incident stars Chan as a tractor repairman named Steelhead who travels to Tokyo in search of his missing girlfriend and finds himself embroiled in the world of the yakuza. Double-crosses ensue, and when the city becomes too hot to handle, Steelhead takes it upon himself to rectify the situation. While fans of Chan’s trademark acrobatics will be disappointed by the distinct lack of martial arts action and Chan’s typically easygoing attitude, others might find his change of pace refreshing. For those who are, at the very least, curious, The Shinjuku Incident is available on home video this week.
By the time Wong Kar-Wai made 1997’s Happy Together, the Hong Kong auteur had already established a name for himself with films like Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, drawing praise for his visual flair, his overt sensuality, and his poetic, almost cerebral treatment of sometimes seedy themes. Happy Together is no different, with critics citing the film’s impressive imagery and intimate aesthetic as major strengths. The story, separated into four segments, revolves around an expatriate Chinese gay couple (Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung) living in Buenos Aires and their rocky relationship, and for his efforts, Wong was awarded Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Critics felt that the film was a bit more coherent than Wong’s previous efforts, but with perennial collaborator Christopher Doyle manning the camera, Happy Together still maintained Wong’s knack for visual flourish. This week, the film is available on Blu-Ray for the first time, and special features include a look at the scenes that were cut out of the theatrical release as well as a career retrospective interview with the director, among others.
Now that The A-Team is all set to hit theaters this Friday, it only makes sense that a box set like this would find its way to home video shelves this week as well. Even if you weren’t a “child of the 80s,” as it were, growing up with the show, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why The A-Team was such a hit. Each of the characters is memorable in his own right, and as one Rotten Tomatoes editor put it, there is more action in the intro to The A-Team than the entire series of most other shows. And in most cases, unlike a lot of other popular programs from the 80s, The A-Team actually kind of holds up over time, despite its over-the-top shenanigans and of-the-time production values. All five seasons of the show are gathered here and packaged in a miniature version of the iconic van from the TV series, but the special features (and, in fact, pretty much everything else aside from the van packaging) are the same as those found on the individual season sets. With all that in mind, this is still a novel pick-up for anyone who wants everything at once, along with a nifty little keepsake (the van).
Written by Ryan Fujitani Sara Maria Vizcarrondo, and David Chung